Coaching football in the Detroit Public School League is a huge task in itself, but there have been a number of able and willing guys who have taken on the tall order. Greats like Joe Hoskins, Jim Reynolds, Steven McGee, or Woody Thomas. And there are still coaches in today’s PSL that carry on the legacy of the greats before them. I take a look at the top five current head football coaches in the PSL.
1Thomas Wilcher (Cass Technical)
Resume: Two Division I state titles (2011, 2012), Five consecutive D-I state semifinal appearances (2010-2014), Three city titles (2010, 2013, 2014), 13 state playoff appearances.
Notable players coached: Vernon Gholston, Boubacar Cissoko, Joseph Barksdale, William Campbell, Dior Mathis, Jourdan Lewis, Jayru Campbell, Mike Weber, Mike Onwenu, Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Why he is here: Most of Wilcher’s notable success has come in the last seven years or so, but Cass Tech has quickly risen to supremacy in the state in that short period of time. Wilcher has gone to an impressive five straight D-1 semifinals, and has won two state titles. Head coach there since 1997, Wilcher has won over 140 games at Cass Tech, and has turned it into one of the premiere programs in the nation. Most importantly, he and his staff have helped dozens and dozens of young men go on to play football at the next level.
2Dale Harvel (Martin Luther King)
Resume: Two Division 2 state semifinal appearances (2011, 2013), two city titles (2009, 2012), Four consecutive city title appearances (2011-2014), six state playoff appearances.
Notable players coached: Dennis Norfleet, Mycial Allen, Avonte Maddox, Jalen Embry, Tyriq Thompson, Kyonta Stallworth, LaVert Hill, Donnie Corley, Martell Pettaway, Ambry Thomas.
Why he is here: Harvel has only been head coach at King since 2009, but has been with the Crusaders for over 25 years under the legendary Jim Reynolds. He was the mastermind defensively of those great King dating back to the 1980s, including the 2007 Division 2 state title team. As a head coach, Harvel has won over 50 games at King, with two city titles (four straight appearances from 2011-2014), and has made the state playoffs every year. Harvel has his 2015 team No.1 in the state. Is this the year he gets his own state title as head coach?
3Rod Oden (East English Village Prep)
Resume: One Divison 4 semifinal appearance (2010: Crockett), one city title (2011: Crockett), 10 state playoff appearances.
Notable players coached: Brandon Graham, Robert Eddins, Valtorrey Showers, Aaron McCord, Tony Lippett, Marcellous McElrath, Brian Blackburn, James White, Desmond King, Khalid Hill.
Why he is here: Oden had much success at a relatively small school, Crockett, until it closed in 2012. He won 60 games with the Rockets, made the playoffs every year since taking over in 2005, and won a city title in its last season, 2011. Now at EEVP, not much has changed. The Bulldogs have been consistent state playoffs participants, and have played in one city title under Oden (2012). With King and Cass Tech dominating the city as they have over the years, Oden’s teams have competed against the two better than anyone else has. He’s 9-13 against those two combined.
4Donshell English (Mumford)
Resume: One city title (Southeastern: 2008), Five state playoff appearances.
Notable players coached: Corey Blue, Fred Smith, Charles Burrell, Will Sturges, Will Gholston, Johnathan Hankins, Paris Powell, Ed Davis, Monte Stewart, Tee’Ondre Harvey.
Why he is here: In eight seasons at Southeastern, English turned a program with no tradition, into one of the best in the city. He won almost 50 games there, and in a two-year span (2008-2009), had the Junagleers rolling. They went 20-2 those two years, with one city title in 2008. Not to mention two future NFL’ers (Gholston and Hankins) on those teams. Now at Mumford, English is turning that program around too. In his fourth year, he has won 19 games, and has the Mustangs in the state playoffs every year now
5Tony Blankenship (Denby)
Resume: One city title (Southwestern: 2008), seven state playoff appearances.
Notable players coached: Raynard Lewis, Malik Whitehead, Richard Keil, Lance Johnson, Dejuan Bracey, Brandon Person, Eric Crume.
Why he is here: One would be hard pressed to find a head coach with as much resiliency as Blankenship has had over the years. He has taken programs like, now-closed, Murray-Wright and Southwestern, and now Denby once again, and made them better. Even if they haven’t won much. He lost the 2001 city title to Henry Ford, but finally won it in 2008 with the Prospectors. He has taken all three programs to the state playoffs, and for what he has to work with, continues to do a great job wherever he lands.